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If you have an online business, you’re probably eager to scale it as soon as possible and as quickly as possible. Scaling is simply a term referring to your business’s growth; over time, the goal is to attract more customers, achieve a bigger footprint, and eventually become more competitively dominant. As a result, you’ll make more money and have more influence.
That sounds great, right?
The problem is, scaling and online business can go wrong in many different ways. If you want to scale a business effectively and reliably, there are some important strategies you’re going to need to follow.
The Pitfalls of Scaling Your Online Business the Right Way
Let’s start by reviewing some of the biggest pitfalls of scaling. Growing a business from its early startup stages isn’t guaranteed to be successful. It’s also not guaranteed to be a net positive for your organization; in fact, many businesses end up collapsing because they scaled inefficiently or in a way that was detrimental to them.
Here are some of the biggest obstacles in your way.
- Overspending. The one you probably thought of first was overspending. To achieve growth, you often must invest in your own business; otherwise, you’ll be exclusively relying on passive and unpredictable routes of growth, like depending on word-of-mouth advertising. Instead, you’ll dump your money into your marketing and advertising strategies, step up your research and development, and even hire new people to help you achieve your business goals. This isn’t a bad thing – far from it – but it can quickly exhaust you of your resources if you aren’t careful. Your spending needs to be targeted and deliberate, and it needs to be focused on the strategies and developments most likely to help your business succeed.
- Poor targeting. The best business decisions are driven by data. All businesses take this to heart. Instead, some businesses target new audiences and new routes for expansion based solely on a whim. Even if they do rely on data, they don’t do enough due diligence to make their targeting effective. Again, you are scaling needs to be targeted and focused; if it’s based on a whim, or if it’s not backed up by sufficient data, you’re going to end up rudderless.
- Loss of centralization/brand voice/culture. This is more of an abstract problem that businesses can face, and it’s certainly not a death sentence, but in combination with other detrimental factors, it can erode the integrity of your business. Businesses are at their most powerful when they are centralized; this means having a strong, cohesive brand, a consistent internal organizational culture, and focused direction even across different locations and branches. If you expand it too quickly, or with too many people, or in too many areas, it becomes practically unfeasible to retain this centralization. Instead, you’ll end up having to contend with a fragmented and inconsistent version of what your brand used to be.
- Bad customer experiences. For many reasons, expanding too quickly can ultimately lead to bad customer experiences. Your customers may not be able to get the products they want, they may struggle to navigate a confusing customer service department as it begins to grow, or they may lose confidence that this brand is everything they used to think it was. As a result, digital businesses that scale too quickly and up alienate the very customers that let them too early success in the first place.
The good news is, none of these pitfalls are guaranteed to happen. In fact, most of them are totally avoidable.
Scaling Your Online Business Better
These are some of the most important strategies you’ll need to use if you want to scale your online business better.
- Use multiple different strategies. Marketing and advertising are the primary channels through which a business scales. These are the areas where you’ll have the opportunity to introduce your brand to new customers and bring them into the fold. If you want to get more consistent results and reduce your risk, it’s important to use multiple strategies simultaneously; think of it as a way of diversifying your marketing portfolio. For example, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is highly reliable for generating traffic, but it can also become expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing or if you don’t counterbalance it with other organic strategies. Adding in some content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO) could be exactly what you need to see better overall results.
- Start with one new market. Don’t go crazy with your expansion. Instead, focus on one new market or one new expansion opportunity. It allows you to grow in a much more controlled and reliable way.
- Spend cautiously. Entrepreneurs often get overzealous when spending money on anything meant to serve the scaling mission. Instead, scrutinize every dollar that leaves your organization. If you spend cautiously, you’ll be smarter with the investments you make.
- Develop a plan to counter your competition. Competent competitors can and will stand in your way. That’s why it’s so important to develop a specific plan to counter each of your major competitors. Get to know them, including their biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses – and develop strategic angles that allow you to counter them. Can you undercut their prices? Can you easily beat their shipping speeds?
- Expand staff only when necessary. It’s tempting to hire new people as quickly as possible when you’re eager to expand. But this is usually a recipe for disaster. Not only will you be quickly multiplying your spending on one of the most expensive categories of spending for your business – you’ll also be bringing new people into an organizational culture that’s at its most fragile. Instead, commit to only expanding your staffing when necessary.
- Get professional insights. Don’t trust your gut when it comes to important decisions dictating the future of your business. Before making any major decisions, get some professional insights and see if the experts in this area agree with your initial analysis. You could do this by talking to a consultant, discussing things with your partners, or even reading a book on the subject.
- Exercise caution when outsourcing. Contractors and third-party firms can be excellent resources to keep your business operational as it reaches new customers and serves new needs. However, they may not be aligned with your organization’s goals and they can often present as many problems as they solve. It’s important to exercise caution when outsourcing and interview all your prospective candidates thoroughly before bringing them on board.
- Be ready to drop strategies that aren’t working. In the course of scaling a business, you’re going to encounter some tactics and angles that simply don’t work. Instead of doubling down on them and hoping to make back some of the money you lost, be willing to drop them. Cut your losses before sunk cost fallacy begins corrupting your decision-making.
- Double down on your most effective tactics. Conversely, pay attention to the strategies that seem to be paying off the most. Why are they so effective? Can you make them even more effective? In most cases, the best approach is to dump even more money into these strategies and expand their influence.
- Keep a close eye on ROI. It’s important to measure everything related to your marketing and expansion, and do so objectively. This way, you’ll have a reliable way to distinguish between effective and ineffective strategies – and you’ll have definitive proof that your scaling efforts are working the way you intend.
Following these strategies won’t guarantee that you scale your business quickly, efficiently, and productively. But they are a reliable foundation.
Scaling is always going to be a risky endeavor, but a necessary one if you want your business to achieve its full potential.
Remain patient, do your due diligence, and be willing to change direction when necessary, and you’ll be in a much better position than most scaling entrepreneurs.
Image Credit: Cottonbro from Pexels; Thank you!